Background on Los Abiertos Project:

Over the course of four months studying abroad in Barcelona, fate crossed my path with fascinating and impressive individuals. The caliber of these people was that of the illusive, successful adults I read about in books and newspapers, from a world I never imagined would be at my access. Famous athletes, world-renowned musicians, international models, Harvard graduates- why were they wasting their time with me?

Blown away by their intellect and generosity, I spent four months quietly observing the ways of these people who came to be known to me as “Los Abiertos,” the Open Ones. In this piece, I have created a general sketch of Los Abiertos, speaking of them as one. Do not be misled, these insights are the summation of hundreds of observations garnered from 20+ uniquely aged and originated people from around the world. “Los Abiertos” itself is simply a name I have chosen to call the entire group- these fascinating, impossibly generous, present-living humans.

There are no widely-held principles or agreed-upon roadmap to be an Abierto. However, in reviewing my notes, journals, and interviews conducted over the past four months, I discovered that there were common values and morals held by a vast majority of Los Abiertos. Despite their extreme differences in upbringing, race, gender, career, religion, age, I found that they were shockingly similar. These are my findings. These are Los Abiertos.

Lessons of Los Abiertos

Modesty:

Quiet Confidence is Powerful:

Los Abiertos did not brag or boast. I found Los Abiertos to be impressive from their engagement in our conversations, the person they were in the exact moment I was interacting with them. Only later did I learn of their accomplishments, educational background, salaries, careers. They did not use these status markers to validate themselves or demand respect- rather they generated my affinity for them with the way they conducted themselves.

 

Avoid Oversharing:

Still Los Abiertos are mysterious to me. Maybe it is their propensity to ask more questions of the people they converse with, or because they refuse to boast of their experiences, I found that my insight into the lives of Los Abiertos had to be pried out of them with incessant questions. The idea of an interview repulsed them, as they did not believe they were important or interesting enough- or if they did, they refused to feed their ego with the proposition. This secrecy made me value even more the pearls of wisdom and bits of self that I was gifted when Los Abiertos let me in.

From Los Abiertos, I learned the value of being selfish with my own personal story. Since meeting them, I have begun to be more private with the intimate details of my life. Each day I journal, and have found solace in the ability to relive, safeguard, and analyze the events of my life on my own time. I protect myself from the pain caused by being too vulnerable with someone who does not sufficiently return the vulnerability and no longer feel as though I am burdening my friends with my inner thoughts. As a result, I am peaceful. My relationships have improved, as I am more engaged while listening to others. I no longer listen to wait for my moment to tell my story so I can find meaning, but rather listen to others fully and actively. As a result, I garner insight and information that I may have otherwise missed, and my partner in conversation feels valued and heard.

 

Love Fully and Selflessly:

The modesty of Los Abiertos gave me insight into the nature of their relationships, which were unique in the varying levels of closeness afforded to the people in their life. Those people whom Los Abiertos did hold closely; best friends, family members, lovers, they gave all of themselves. This sort of open, selfless love makes one vulnerable, giving that person infinite power to impact both positively and negatively El Abierto. I observed that Los Abiertos had a handful of these relationships, people with whom they generate energy, share their burdens, and celebrate their jubilance.

Practicing this candid openness can be exhausting if the energy and self is given to a person who does not return it in exactly the same nature. This is why I believe Los Abiertos are guarded with the most intimate details of themselves. In a current media culture that encourages self-expression and sharing personal details online to strangers, Los Abiertos were unique. They did not need to create a social network or presence online, to give some of themselves to people who they did know or love, because they were fulfilled in their existing relationships and in themselves.

Despite having many connections in their networks, I doubt that the loose ties have any more insight into the lives of Los Abiertos than what Los Abiertos have actively and carefully chosen to share. With the exception of their inner support systems, Los Abiertos guarded their privacy and conserved their energy. Our society is obsessed with networking, social climbing, self-improvement- who can I meet who can make my life better for me? Los Abiertos were refreshing in the way they were not consumed with expanding their network and were fulfilled with the relationships they had chosen to invest in.

 

Money is Utility, Not Asset:

Many key character traits held by Los Abiertos made for financial success in the the capitalist society we exist in, and as a result, had brought Los Abiertos a great deal of money. And while it is possible that this financial wealth was perhaps their ambition when they began their career, (we must remember that Los Abiertos are not saints who are immune to the appeal of money), it is not Los Abiertos’ current obsession; They treat money as a utility, not the asset itself. Having surplus wealth does not fuel the ego of Los Abiertos, but does serve to fuel their lifestyle.

I was shocked to learn of the affluence of some of Los Abiertos because they did not discuss money like some of the people I had met in the United States, who only talk about how much money they currently have and their plans to acquire more.

I found that Los Abiertos did not hoard their money, creating a fortress of possessions. Their money is spent in the same way they spend their time and energy, for money, time, and energy are treated with equal value in the minds of Los Abiertos. An experience, a trip, a gift, a meal- these are yielded from the resources of Los Abiertos, exchanging monetary wealth for wealth in relationships, knowledge, jubilance, satisfaction. Money is a vehicle, not the end destination, the enabling force, not the driving ambition.


 

Humility:

“The smartest people admit when they do not know something. Only stupid people think they know everything” - Un Abierto

 

Admit Weakness:

Los Abiertos know that they do not know everything, or nearly anything at all. They do not pretend to know what they do not know, and are humble enough to ask and research, to accept help. Los Abiertos are hungry to learn more, curious, bright-eyed at the world. They consume information, not only from literature and the news, but from their active and engaged listening. Meaningful conversations are had with an Abierto because they actively listen and engage in discourse.

But while Los Abiertos are hungry for knowledge of the world, they do not seek the entire world for themselves. They admit when they are wrong and have lasered their energy on select tasks that they throw themselves completely into. They focus on being exceptionally good at the actions demanded to be successful in their present moments-  from something as small as how they treat their mothers, to how they perform in their races.

Reject Perfection:

Los Abiertos are not perfect, sinless. Aware of their flaws and ego, they know that actions are made by a calculating mind that often chooses the objectively worst decision as a result of selfishness or bias. But instead of making excuses, they own it. And if the repercussions hurt someone other than themselves, they own this too.

Abiertos are not idols. This was my mistake early on. I was disappointed by each one at some point in our relationship because I had unfair expectations of them. Because I had put them on pedestals, assuming they could never make a wrong or selfish decision, I failed to recognize one of the greatest things about Los Abiertos- they are just like us. We can learn from the ways of Los Abiertos, because they have the same human flaws as we do.

 

Celebration:

Each day for an Abierto is a celebration, because it is their present moment.

Meals are Experiences:

Los Abiertos often ate long, expensive, indulgent meals, often followed by dessert. They didn’t dwell on the large bills, or discuss money- it was viewed as an investment, in the relationships of the people there at that celebration of the present moment.

But in the same way, I know that they also lived smartly, eating humble breakfasts every day- a roll and coffee most days. Even though they could probably afford an expensive brunch every day of their lives, they preferred to allocate their time, energy, and money to meals with people they valued or for moments they wanted to celebrate. The moments for celebration did not have to be of an accomplishment or big event, but with scarcity they preserved the sanctity of long indulgent meal as one to be celebrated.

Challenges are Opportunities:

For an Abierto, a struggle or challenge is just as much cause for joy as a victory. To struggle means that they are awake, experiencing, learning. All pain is temporary, but the lessons and clarity found in struggle are insights that would not be known without undergoing that unique pain.

Each Abierto has bitten off from the world a bit more than they can chew. But they love their struggle, embracing it. He knows that he will have to do something that he has never done in order to accomplish this task. Instead of worrying or exhausting him, the uncertainty excites. In the same way that the racecar drivers’ eyes lit up when they spoke of difficult race courses, the entrepreneur was energized when speaking about the challenges he faces launching a start-up in Barcelona.

The knowledge of the future effort required to surmount their respective obstacles motivates Los Abiertos without overwhelming them. They relish in the actions they can take today to prepare them for the next present moment, making sure to live presently without getting lost in their future plans. Los Abiertos feel so comfortable with reality that they are comfortable when pivoting ideas. By fully embracing that change is uncomfortable but necessary, Los Abiertos are able to celebrate the process by which they attack their challenges.

Memories are Gifts:

Los Abiertos live full-embodied lives. One can attest that the moments in a few years of the life of an Abierto may be more lively than the entire livelihoods of someone merely going through the motions. It could be so easy for them to live in the past, reliving their glory days and adventures. Personally I loved to hear of their adventures and mishaps, moments of failure and triumph. It made them human.

Paradoxically however, it is only by leaving their past and fully rooting themselves in their present moment that they have been able to have the full, adventure-filled lives that they have led. But that does not mean that they should be selfish with their celebration of a live-fully lived. In sharing photos, videos, memories, stories with the people close to them, Los Abiertos expressed their gratitude for these unique opportunities.

One Abierto loved photos. For every event he hosted, there were always 2-5 professional photographers / videographers there to capture. For more than solely marketing ambition, these photos and videos were shared with all those who attended the events, not charged a photo fee or made to post with a logo or advertisement. These photos remind those who attended the events of the great joy that music and community can precipitate, what wonderful things can happen when people come together solely to celebrate the lives that we lead. In sharing these memories, El Abierto hopes to stir in those who see them the desire to embrace reality, to put aside the dull routine of the every day to dance, laugh, spend time with friends, exist presently. To celebrate the moments in our past that brought us to this present helps us appreciate the present moments we have been afforded.

 

Shamelessness:

Los Abiertos own their lives. They command their destiny because they accept that whatever happens is what was supposed to happen. They live free of regret and guilt.

Embrace Struggle:

When Los Abiertos fail, they feel fully their pain in that instant. However, they do not live in their pain. Los Abiertos let their pain pass through them because they have fully accepted that the exact present moment is the one they are supposed to be in. This does not mean that they live without ambition, without trying to improve their present moment. Rather, it means that they are not destroyed when their best effort is not enough for the accomplishment they sought. Los Abiertos are so comfortable in their being that the ego blows off failure and rejection as nothing more than temporary pain. Some of this pain they experience much longer than others for they are human, but they move bravely forward with the knowledge that the struggle is part of their greater life story. This story has been built from a perpetual number of present moments, each fleeting and perfect in their own right, appreciated more fully with the clarity garnered through struggle.

Refuse Boundaries:

Los Abiertos are not deterred by challenge, fear of failure, the warnings of others who are not as bold as they are. Los Abiertos have been able to accomplish the insane, impressive accomplishments that they have, because they were willing to try. In wholeheartedly and energetically committing themselves to their lives, they are undeterred by the fear of revealing their vulnerability. I have seen Los Abiertos in action, observing that that they can quickly, seemingly effortlessly influence people to do favors and tasks they would not usually do, and would not do for anyone else. Los Abiertos are not afraid to shamelessly ask of the world what they desire, because they are not rejection-averse. They do not keep a tally of their failures and cart it around with them, they understand that the energy spent on a failure is already sunk, not worth grieving or let impact the decisions of the future. Rather, Los Abiertos view each moment as its potential yield if they were to try.

Los Abiertos see the world for what it is- a landscape of opportunity, waiting for the right person to craft something incredible. Instead of waiting for that person to come along and blaze the path, Los Abiertos ask not, “who will craft the splendors of the world,” but  “how will I craft a splendor in my world?” By focusing on their own ecosphere, on a specific task that they are intrinsically impassioned by, they experience immense success. Their committed energy on the opportunity always yields great value, but value to an Abierto is not synonymous with “winning” or achieving exactly the goal they had when they first set out.

A pivoted idea, a failure, an abandoned task all generate value- be it the know-how of how not to accomplish that specific task or how to better select a task in the future. By viewing all investments of energy as an investment that will yield insight, there is no loss in trying. Splendor and suffering are of equal value to an Abierto. No idea is too crazy, far-reaching to consider. Instead of asking “why me?” they shout “why not me?” and beat relentlessly into the abyss of the unknown until they run into an obstacle that forces them to act differently- be it to pivot, develop a skill to climb over, or realize that this was not the abyss they want to continue in.

 

Engagement:

Anchor into Reality:

While an onlooker may find their actions to be indulgent or impulsive, Los Abiertos exist with their jubilance as their compass. They peacefully, joyfully navigate, not stressed with the possible stormy seas ahead or defeated by the wrecks and bumps that have weathered their ship. They attend to the immediate needs of their vessel and what is demanded by the current water conditions, but no more energy is expensed than necessary. Los Abiertos celebrate the boat ride itself, marveling at the taste of the salted air, depth of the blued hues, the turbulence of the ocean that reminds them that they are alive and commanding the vehicle of their life. They ask “isn’t it a wonderful that we get to be on this exact boat, in this exact body of water?” instead of comparing to the other boats in the harbor or complaining about the temperature of the sea.

To live like an Abierto is to live presently, actively, awoken. To be contagiously energetic, compassionate, and express gratitude without bounds. With jubilance as their natural state, Los Abiertos do not seek accomplishments or chase status to prove themselves worthy, and are thus freed from the pain of comparison and failed expectations. All of the time, energy, money that would have been spent trying to build an image to impress others is thus at the access of Los Abiertos, for them to spend how they deem best for that present moment.

Final Thoughts:

In living with Los Abiertos, I have begun to live like an Abierto. I put my phone away when I begin a conversation, minimizing distractions so I can be more present with the person I am interacting with. By working to change my perspective on suffering, I take the woes of the every day with a lightness to my heart. My mistakes are moments of learning, my pain a moment of explosive emotional expression, and then rebuilding. In the same way that the skin that grows over wounds is stronger and smoother than the skin that was initially cut, I can feel my emotional elasticity strengthen as I forgive those I have allowed to cause me pain and myself for my ego that causes me pain.

Inspired by their modesty, I no longer empty myself out to others, posting my life online or feeling like I have overshared to acquaintances. Each day I awake, filled with jubilance that is mine alone to revel in, or work to spread to others. I recognize that so much of my pain is from living in the good days of the past, causing grief and regret, or from my anxieties about the future. This is best exemplified by an 11 page paper I wrote for a class, in which I was so stressed by what I would do after graduating college, that I explored every option I currently imagined might be available to me in a year. This is the opposite of an Abierto.

What a wonder it is that my present moments collided me with so many Abiertos this semester. It makes me question if perhaps Los Abiertos have always been there, quietly co-existing alongside me, but I had not been aware. In the United States, I was blinded by my ego, consumed by playing the game of individual accomplishment and status that I had adopted as my reality. In the comfort of adopting popular society’s pressure to earn good grades, to go to college, to work, to marry, and so on, I lived in my own self-inflicted pain of comparison and suffering. Maybe it required the humbling of studying abroad to strip me of my ego, that in the uncomfortable, new environment I was forced to snap out of the routine I had been passively living.

In actively choosing how I would spend the present moments of my last four months, I learned to craft my life for jubilance, not status. As the final week winds down, I hear students speak of places they wish they had gone, weekends they wish they had done differently. From Los Abiertos I have been freed from regret and guilt, and recognize that every action and experience I undertook was exactly and precisely what I need to happen. I am now much more forgiving of myself, joyful in my body and mind, and have been able to live out the self-care principles that I used to preach to my friends without following myself. I am transformed, but I keep transforming each moment. The beauty of living like an Abierto is that each moment is a blank slate for us to craft the most wonderful, joy-filled existence. If you do not like your reality, change it. If you cannot change your reality, change your perspective so you can see the value in what your unique reality has gifted you.

In the realization of my ego’s existence and how it influences my decisions and emotions, my life is more wholly under my control. Instead of snapping, breaking because of pain, I have learned to respond. And as I work each day to live presently, I am not disheartened when I fail. Many of my decisions are still made by my ego- I still compare my body to others, post pictures on instagram to feed my ego from the instant gratification of likes, and hundreds more acts than productive or necessary to list. But the growth I celebrate is my newfound awareness of this, my quietly humble struggle each day against it. And by having Los Abiertos, not perfect themselves, alongside me in this perpetual battle against ego, I am not alone. My most flopping failures and happiest moments of bliss are one and the same. The decisions that I make, fueled by ego or not, are what bring me to the present moment. Effervescing joy as an outward expression of inner jubilance, Los Abiertos taught me to live. To own my life. And celebrate the gift that is the present moment, from now until I have no more.